Energy policy in France

For the electric power sector, President Macron’s administration is planning for more nuclear power, with less emphasis on renewables.

Two recent news items…

As many as 14 new nuclear plants are needed, according to the energy transition minister.

According to data from the Fraunhofer Institute, the following is the electricity mix for France for 2023.

Nuclear 67%
Hydro 11%
Wind 10%
Natural Gas 6%
Solar 4.5%
Other ~1%

Clean electricity is about 93% of total power generation.

Last year, France also exported a net 48.7 TWh of electricity to its neighbors. This is approximately equal to the output of 6 of France’s nuclear plants. With the current energy mix, France has some of the lowest carbon electricity in Europe, rivaled only by Sweden, which also has a significant nuclear power fleet. Meanwhile, over in Germany, they are still burning large amounts of lignite coal in order to keep the lights on.

  • Pete

France has always been more comfortable with nuclear than others in Europe (like Germany).

When did France last build a new nuclear plant? Do they have cost overruns under control? Will they build full scale? Or small modular reactors?

The chaotic situation in wind farms may well call for a delay with new projects until details get ironed out. Inflation trimmed. Cost estimates reliable. (Nuclear can have the same problems forcing a do the best you can in spite of the negatives because you need the power.)

According to the PRIS data base, the last nuclear plants in France were Civaux 1 and 2, which went into service in 1997 and 1999. Most of the others were built in the 70s and 80s.

Inside France, they currently have one plant in construction at Flamanville, which is a large EPR type plant. From what I have read, the other new plants will also be large EPR-2 reactors. The EPR-2 is of a similar size, but it supposed to be easier and less costly to build than the original EPR.

EDF, the French power company, is also building EPRs in the United Kingdom at Hinkley Point, as well as proposed plants at Sizewell.

  • Pete

European Pressurized Reactors (EPR): Nuclear power’s latest costly and delayed disappointments

France has a poor record with their design and construction of their EPRs.
The three EPRs in Europe have reported significant problems:

  1. The Flamanville reactor in Normandy, France, was originally estimated to cost €3.3 billion and be completed in 2012. Construction began in 2007. Since then, issues surrounding welds for the reactor vessel have helped drive the cost to €13.2 billion, and fuel loading is not expected to occur until 2024.

  2. Construction began on the Olkiluoto 3 reactor in southern Finland in 2005. Originally projected to cost €3 billion and be completed in 2009, its price tag has soared to €11 billion. After several delays, it was scheduled to go online last year, but issues with feedwater pumps have delayed its commissioning to later in 2023.

  3. The Hinkley Point C project in the southwestern United Kingdom broke ground in 2017 at an estimated cost of £18 billion. Issues with siting, however, have caused costs to soar to £25 billion, and the project isn’t expected to be finished before 2027.

Despite the issues with the EPRs, the French government—which recently announced plans to fully nationalize Électricité de France S.A. (EDF)—has been pushing for more to be built. EDF has an agreement in principle to build a half-dozen EPRs in India and has been aggressively marketing the design in Slovakia and Poland.

“It’s true that we should have diversified sources of electricity,” Bass said. “But those sources should be proven and cost-effective. Wind and solar energy are both. Investors and ratepayers will be better served by less-costly sources of renewable energy.”

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The IEEFA report reviewed the Flamanville nuclear station in France; the Olkiluoto 3 reactor in Finland; the Hinkley Point C project in the United Kingdom; and the two Taishan reactors in China. Nuclear advocates have long argued there is a learning curve associated with building new reactor designs, and costs should decrease as engineers gain experience.

A 2020 Massachusetts Institute of Technology study, however, has found that successive iterations of the same nuclear design in the U.S. generally result in even greater costs. The IEEFA analysis found that the EPR designs appear to be following the same pattern.


Uranium powered EVs! Sounds good to me!

The Captain


As i recall some Russian satellites are nuclear powered (and very radioactive). Nuclear powered EVs may be feasible if adequate shielding can be devised.

I like to think of the high speed trains in France as being nuclear powered. Its not that there is a reactor in each locomotive. The trains get their energy from electric power lines, and those power lines are (mostly) energized from land-based nuclear power plants throughout the country. From what I understand, the passenger trains in France are some of the fastest in the world.

So, in that sense, the EVs in France are (mostly) nuclear powered right now.

  • Pete

You got it!

The Captain

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The latest from France – last month in recap

  • In November, France released its draft national energy and climate roadmap, whose objectives were previously known and will shape the upcoming PPE’s target setting. The strategy has been opened to public consultation and will be the subject of a bill in early 2024. The government intends to reduce the share of fossil fuels in its energy consumption to 42 percent in 2030 and 29 percent in 2035, but not all environmental groups are convinced. For the overall final energy consumption, it is aiming for a drop by 30 percent by 2030 from 2012 levels, and by 40 to 50 percent by 2050 from 2021 levels.
  • According to data by the French NGOs Data for Good and Éclaircies, France is the largest supporter in Europe of high-emissions fossil fuel extraction projects, so-called “carbon bombs.” French banks have provided 154 billion dollars to the corporations that run the biggest fossil fuel projects since the Paris Climate Agreement was signed in 2015, behind only those of China and the United States.
  • At the COP28 summit, French President Emmanuel Macron called on G7 nations to “commit to put an end to coal” by 2030, saying that investing in the sector was “truly an absurdity.” Ahead of the climate conference, media reported that France, backed by the United States, was planning to halt private financing for coal-based power plants.
  • The government presented a 1 billion euro plan to overhaul the country’s organisation for research over the next 18 months, which will include the creation of a presidential science council made up of 12 leading scientists who will advise the president on research strategy. The Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission will oversee all research on low-carbon energy technology, among others, while national research agency CNRS will be in charge of marine, climate and biodiversity research in collaboration with the French Research Institute for Exploitation of the Sea and the Research Institute for Development.
  • In a survey published late November, the European Investment Bank (EIB) found that two thirds of French people believed that the green transition could only happen if inequalities were addressed at the same time. However, 61 percent of respondents explained that they were not confident that the government could carry out such a climate transition. In addition, the EIB revealed that three quarters of the French were in favour of removing subsidies and tax breaks for the aviation industry, as well as all corporations that rely heavily on fossil fuels. A majority said that it was ready to accept an income-tax increase that would aim at helping people with the lowest incomes adapt to climate-related policies.
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